Free Will Vs Destiny?

Booo

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#1
Apologies if this is the wrong thread section to post this in, but I was curious what others' believed in personally..

Perhaps you have had experiences where something was destined, I.e. Had a premonition dream which came true, or have been to a medium before who predicted things that happened exactly as they foresaw?

I personally have had a few experiences to prove (in my belief for me personally) that there is a destiny out there and we cannot control certain things that happen. I certainly think that major times in our lives are destined such as when we die and marry etc.

It's interesting to hear people's personal beliefs and theories.
 

AlchoPwn

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#2
I think to have free will, there would need to be some proof that our minds are something transcendent of physical reality. We presently have no solid proof of that, and considerable proof to the contrary. Our minds are governed by the conditions affecting our brains, and our brains are composed of the same constituent matter as our bodies and the rest of the material world. Chaos theory tells us that any complex system becomes predictable if it can be measured to enough decimal places, and this likely holds true even ultimately for turbulent systems. Thus free will is an illusion created by human ignorance.

The question becomes then, what happens when we learn to predict ourselves? Clearly those who are rapid up-takers will gain the most advantage, as they navigate the world with a system that optimizes their lives, but ultimately the same algorithm and all the subsequent predictive algorithms will become our future leaders.
 

Dropship

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#3
Perhaps you have had experiences where something was destined, I.e. Had a premonition dream which came true,.
The only one that springs to mind is many years ago when I woke up in the night feeling hot and drenched in sweat, something that'd never happened before or since.
I was unemployed at the time and next day I went down the Jobcentre to look for any old job and they randomly gave me the address of a shoemaking company, so I went along and they set me on the "hot blast" which involved shrinking the leather, and I was soon sweating just like in the dream.
 

PeteS

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#4
Apologies if this is the wrong thread section to post this in, but I was curious what others' believed in personally..

Perhaps you have had experiences where something was destined, I.e. Had a premonition dream which came true, or have been to a medium before who predicted things that happened exactly as they foresaw?

I personally have had a few experiences to prove (in my belief for me personally) that there is a destiny out there and we cannot control certain things that happen. I certainly think that major times in our lives are destined such as when we die and marry etc.

It's interesting to hear people's personal beliefs and theories.
It's a question I have pondered over the years- are free will and destiny mutually exclusive? As I've mentioned before a medium predicted when I would meet my future wife, the initials of her three names and town where she lived and the date and age she would die. It was of my own free will that I progressed the relationship when I met her, and that I married her, (having completely forgotten the details of the medium's predictions). It can only then have been my destiny that this would happen to me.
In simple terms I have come to the conclusion that we may have free will to make certain choices in life , but our destiny is that we will follow one particular path. Only my view obviously. I'm sure others will disagree.
 

Analogue Boy

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#5
If we’re alll living in an artificial or holographic universe, our lives are just memories or we’re nothing more than a bunch of NPCs giving each other menial quests to do.
 

Ulalume

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#6
I tend not to believe in destiny per se, I imagine our future is not set in stone, but here are a couple of things. Make of them what you will.

First story -
In the mid 90's my life seemed to be one disaster after another, and I had this feeling - a very strong, concrete feeling - that I had made a wrong turn, or more specifically, not made the turn I was supposed to - and that's why so much was going wrong.

I remember thinking, "well, if I'm not supposed to be here, where am I supposed to be?" But there was no clear answer, only that I'd missed a turn and now my life was off track.

A few months later, through a series of random events, I ended up visiting my cousin in a town where I'd never been before. The moment I stepped out of the car and put my feet on the ground I knew with absolute certainty that this was the place I was supposed to have been, and I was back on the correct path. There was an immense sense of relief. A short time later, I met the man I would marry and we fell in love at first sight. We lived in that place for 17 years.

Second story -
Last year, our old car bit the dust. We needed a new one, but this was tricky, because we're not rich and student loans had damaged our credit.

Regardless, I told my husband that I knew we would have a certain car of a specific make, a lightly used former rental car, of a certain color for a low price. I told him to call the rental car company and ask about it. He did, and it turned out they'd just got a car like this, and we were able to buy it.

My husband was stunned, but like I said, I knew it all along. To make matters slightly more mystical, this had happened the day before, and it was the car issue I'd asked about, being as we were driving around in a ludicrously expensive rental until we could get it sorted out. It was right after that this incident that I knew what would happen.

I am not so sure these things were destined, I mean, I'm sure I could have prevented them from happening had I not made a move. However, it feels as if this fate was there waiting for me, I just had to make a move to get to it. If that makes any sense.
 

AlchoPwn

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#7
It's a question I have pondered over the years- are free will and destiny mutually exclusive? As I've mentioned before a medium predicted when I would meet my future wife, the initials of her three names and town where she lived and the date and age she would die. It was of my own free will that I progressed the relationship when I met her, and that I married her, (having completely forgotten the details of the medium's predictions). It can only then have been my destiny that this would happen to me.
In simple terms I have come to the conclusion that we may have free will to make certain choices in life , but our destiny is that we will follow one particular path. Only my view obviously. I'm sure others will disagree.
You may think it was your choice whether you pursued the relationship with your wife, but you haven't factored her "free will" into that picture. Maybe she was more compelled than you? Is it possible your hormonal drivers were making the decisions for you both? The argument is recursive if pursued in this way, so I offer you a better way of asking the same question:

If your destiny can be predicted with accuracy, then how can you pretend you have free will?
 

PeteS

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#8
You may think it was your choice whether you pursued the relationship with your wife, but you haven't factored her "free will" into that picture. Maybe she was more compelled than you? Is it possible your hormonal drivers were making the decisions for you both? The argument is recursive if pursued in this way, so I offer you a better way of asking the same question:

If your destiny can be predicted with accuracy, then how can you pretend you have free will?
Because there were an awful lot of choices I had to make around this particular chapter in my life - more than I had ever have to make around any situation before or since. Altering any of those decisions I made would have affected the outcome. I believe my destiny was to choose that particular series of decisions I made - all made with without any pressure from any other source, particularly the other person concerned. Only my personal belief (and unalterable ;) ), not one shared by any one I know either. Again, I am not trying to convince anyone here.
 

Mikefule

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#9
You can chose to believe in determinism if you like, but in the end, we are obliged to feel that we have free will.

There are many related but slightly different concepts.

Aetiology (US = etiology) relates to causation: A causes B causes C and so on until the eventual outcome. This is a "snooker balls" view of how things and events interact in chronological sequence. It is often useful in everyday life.

Teleology is in some ways the opposite: the idea that things and events are drawn towards an ultimate goal. Teleology as an idea easily becomes contaminated with the idea of "purpose" or "intention" although purpose and intention can only occur where there is a conscious mind to have that purpose or intention.

Someone who favours the aetiological view might point to the effect of hard work, poor diet, disease, and the gradual breaking down of the replication of DNA and conclude that these things "cause" someone to grow old and die.

Someone who favours the teleological view might point to the need for each new generation to have space to live, resources such as food and water, one earlier generation to help to look after the children, and no substantially older generations to be a burden. In this view, the decline and death of the older individual is caused by the need for the next generation to thrive.

Causation is the concept that events are caused by previous events. If you had perfect knowledge of all of the facts then you would be able to start from one point in time and work forwards or backwards to make accurate predictions about what you would find. In a sense, the "direction of time" is irrelevant to causation, although it remains relevant to us because of the way that we experience the events.

Randomness is when events of a similar nature do not occur in a predictable pattern. However, there are two ways that this can arise:
  1. There is no pattern at all.
  2. We can never have enough information to be able make the prediction.
Consider the tossing of a coin. The outcome will depend to a greater lesser degree on the position and energy state of every molecule in the coin, every molecule of air in the room, and every molecule in the body of the person tossing the coin — and many other factors.

It would be impossible to collate all of this information. Even if, for the sake of argument, it took 1 nanosecond to gather it all, some of the variables would have changed between collecting details of the first molecule and details of the last. Therefore, our calculations would inevitably be slightly out. When we take a snapshot on a digital camera, the information for each pixel is saved at a slightly different time. The differences are infinitesimal, but they are there.

Chaos theory shows that sometimes, a tiny change in initial conditions can have a substantial effect on the outcome. Rather than looking at this as a mathematical theory, consider the effect of a single pebble on a busy road road being thrown up by the wheel of a truck. The tiniest change in one of the variables could make the difference between the pebble hitting the bonnet (hood) of a car, or the windscreen (windshield), or hitting a motorcyclist and knocking him off his bike and killing him. Millions of pebbles are thrown up by wheels every day. Most do no damage, some chip paintwork, a few smash windscreens, and occasionally someone is killed. Sometimes the biker is killed and his bike slides harmlessly down the road and sometimes it causes a major pile up. All of this variation is because the pebble was a milligramme heavier, or slightly smoother, or the truck's tyres were 0.1 bar higher or lower in pressure, or, or, or...


  • Destiny is generally positive. Your life leads ultimately to success. "He was destined for great things."
  • Fate is more ambivalent. "They were fated to meet and fall in love," or "A terrible fate awaited him."
  • Doom is always bad. "Prepare to meet thy doom." "He was doomed to die."
In fact, Destiny, fate, doom, wyrd, kismet, star crossed, etc. are all the same thing: labels that we attach to sequences of events and their outcomes because humans like to ascribe a narrative and a meaning to things.

So back to the original question. I met my wife through a dating website. It was just over a year after I had separated from a former partner and I was ready to start dating. It was about the same length of time since she had separated from a former partner. I chose the website solely because a friend had used it successfully: he now lives with a girl he met via the site.

The website offered me several thousand "matches" and I narrowed the search terms down slightly. One short sentence in her profile caught my attention. I contacted her. We both happened to be free a day or two later. We met and fell in love.

If we look at the chain of causation, I can many fortunate coincidences. If I believed in destiny, or fate, I might say we were destined or fated to meet.
  • My friend who recommended the website had used other websites, It was only luck that he met his fiancée through that particular one.
  • I met that friend on my first night at fencing club.
  • I went to that fencing club only because they had a beginners' course starting only a few days after I searched for fencing clubs in my area.
  • I searched on that particular day because I had seen a picture of a unicyclist in fencing gear in the unicycle forum. I have never seen a picture of a unicyclist in fencing gear before or since.
  • I had started unicycling only because I happened to see a unicyclist at an event that I seldom attended.
  • And so on.
Of course all of the timings and details of other life events mattered as well. The chances on meeting my wife were a proverbial million to one. The point is, if I hadn't met her, I would not have known, and would probably have met someone else and been approximately as happy. I might then have felt that I had been "fated" or "destined" to meet her.

Was it predestined? Only if I am selective in which facts I include in my narrative.

Did I have free will? Did she? It certainly felt like it.

Was that free will decision in reality dictated by the position and energy level of every molecule in my system and hers? Possibly, but as this information could never conceivably have been accurately collated and studied, it is a meaningless question.

In life, we make a small number of decisions. Most of what we do is habit or whim, or responding unthinkingly to social stimuli. However, that does not mean that there is no element of free will. Sometimes we make big decisions deliberately and after careful thought. Are they caused by our previous experiences and our desires? Yes, in a sense, but if they had no cause at all, they would be meaningless.


Buridan's ass was a hypothetical donkey, placed equidistant between two bales of hay that were equally attractive. If the forces of attraction (donkey attracted to food) were exactly and perfectly equal, a donkey with no free will would starve. However, none of us believes that the donkey would starve. He would choose which one to eat first.

If Buridan had instead postulated a metal pin placed exactly and perfectly equidistant between two perfectly identical magnets, the pin would stay there indefinitely. A pin has no free will.
 
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AlchoPwn

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#10
Buridan's ass was a hypothetical donkey, placed equidistant between two bales of hay that were equally attractive. If the forces of attraction (donkey attracted to food) were exactly and perfectly equal, a donkey with no free will would starve. However, none of us believes that the donkey would starve. He would choose which one to eat first. If Buridan had instead postulated a metal pin placed exactly and perfectly equidistant between two perfectly identical magnets, the pin would stay there indefinitely. A pin has no free will.
The point is, no two "bales of hay" are equally attractive. Furthermore, a donkey doesn't know it is being given a choice, it will simply eat one bale of hay, and expect to eat the other subsequently, and perhaps be a little perturbed if you remove the other one after it has made its choice. The donkey simply sees food + food=food.
 

Mikefule

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#11
The point is, no two "bales of hay" are equally attractive. Furthermore, a donkey doesn't know it is being given a choice, it will simply eat one bale of hay, and expect to eat the other subsequently, and perhaps be a little perturbed if you remove the other one after it has made its choice. The donkey simply sees food + food=food.
No. In the case of the entirely hypothetical situation set up by Buridan, the point is that the two attractive options are absolutely exactly equally attractive. (Incidentally, in the original formulation, the donkey was "equally" hungry and thirsty, and the two options were "equally" attractive water and hay.) The same basic idea can be traced back to Aristotle.

If the two choices are absolutely and utterly equally attractive, then there are only 3 options:
  1. Purely deterministically, the ass must stay in the same position and starve, or
  2. With free will, the ass may decide to go for one bale of hay or the other, or
  3. A purely random factor (therefore neither deterministic nor free will) must make the ass turn one way or the other.

Al-Ghazali (who died 1111), a Persian scholar, used dates (the fruit) as his analogy and said:

"Suppose two similar dates in front of a man, who has a strong desire for them but who is unable to take them both. Surely he will take one of them, through a quality in him, the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things."

In this case, "similar" clearly has the literal meaning of "exactly the same" rather than the looser way that we often use the word.

In all cases, it is accepted that if there is the slightest imbalance (even by 0.000 000 000 000 000 001%) then the choice would be caused by this imbalance.

However, the hypothetical situation is that if the two bales of hay were absolutely exactly equally attractive, if the balance of attractive forces were perfect, then a donkey without freewill would starve, which is clearly absurd.

However, in a case of pure physics, such as a pin perfectly positioned between two identical magnets, the pin would remain in a metastable state (not move!) until circumstances changed.

One of the problems here is that the paradox is based on a situation that would be impossible in practice. Of course you could not really set up two exactly equally attractive bales of hay that decayed at exactly the same rate and place the donkey perfectly equidistant between them. However, the the question is, if there was nothing to cause a person to do one thing or another, would they literally do nothing at all? It is not testable, but I think not.

SPOILER ALERT
Asimov dealt with a similar situation in one of his Robot short stories, although I cannot recall the title. Asimov proposed 3 laws of robotics (later amended to 4) and set up a situation in which a robot faced a conflict between the laws. As I recall it, he had to rescue a human from a radiation zone, but he knew that the radiation would fry his circuits making it impossible for him to rescue the human. The robot reached the point where the requirements of the 2 laws were equally balanced. He could not walk away from the human, but he could not approach closer. He then walked around the perimeter of a circle at a radius where these two forces were perfectly balanced. The humans back at the base were therefore able to infer that the stranded human was in the centre of that circle, and they went in and rescued him.

Point is the robot was absolutely deterministic according to strictly programmed rules, and reacted to the perfect balance of conflicting forces, but the humans were able to choose whether to take an unacceptable level of risk in order to rescue their friend.
 

AlchoPwn

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#12
No. In the case of the entirely hypothetical situation set up by Buridan, the point is that the two attractive options are absolutely exactly equally attractive. (Incidentally, in the original formulation, the donkey was "equally" hungry and thirsty, and the two options were "equally" attractive water and hay.) The same basic idea can be traced back to Aristotle.
I get it. My point is that it is a false non-dichotomy. A donkey is never equally attracted to 2 bales, ever. All a donkey sees is food, period. A donkey doesn't differentiate, and even humans have a built in loop breaker that tells them they are needlessly wasting time in such situations.

If the two choices are absolutely and utterly equally attractive, then there are only 3 options:
  1. Purely deterministically, the ass must stay in the same position and starve, or
  2. With free will, the ass may decide to go for one bale of hay or the other, or
  3. A purely random factor (therefore neither deterministic nor free will) must make the ass turn one way or the other.
This is an act of projection on Buridan's part. An ass doesn't see choice, or difference. All an ass sees is food. It is humans (perhaps especially in their love lives) who create such problems for themselves. Prevarication and second guessing themselves are not overly prevalent amongst herbivores.

Al-Ghazali (who died 1111), a Persian scholar, used dates (the fruit) as his analogy and said:

"Suppose two similar dates in front of a man, who has a strong desire for them but who is unable to take them both. Surely he will take one of them, through a quality in him, the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things." In this case, "similar" clearly has the literal meaning of "exactly the same" rather than the looser way that we often use the word. In all cases, it is accepted that if there is the slightest imbalance (even by 0.000 000 000 000 000 001%) then the choice would be caused by this imbalance.
I would put money on the fact that in such a case, the human if properly informed would just say "meh" and just reach for the closest one to their dominant hand.

However, in a case of pure physics, such as a pin perfectly positioned between two identical magnets, the pin would remain in a metastable state (not move!) until circumstances changed.
See, now THAT is interesting. I had a toy top that used that principle to spin while hovering in midair.

One of the problems here is that the paradox is based on a situation that would be impossible in practice.
Agreed. That was my point all along. As though experiments go, it isn't a good one imo.

SPOILER ALERT
Asimov dealt with a similar situation in one of his Robot short stories, although I cannot recall the title. Asimov proposed 3 laws of robotics (later amended to 4) and set up a situation in which a robot faced a conflict between the laws. As I recall it, he had to rescue a human from a radiation zone, but he knew that the radiation would fry his circuits making it impossible for him to rescue the human. The robot reached the point where the requirements of the 2 laws were equally balanced. He could not walk away from the human, but he could not approach closer. He then walked around the perimeter of a circle at a radius where these two forces were perfectly balanced. The humans back at the base were therefore able to infer that the stranded human was in the centre of that circle, and they went in and rescued him.Point is the robot was absolutely deterministic according to strictly programmed rules, and reacted to the perfect balance of conflicting forces, but the humans were able to choose whether to take an unacceptable level of risk in order to rescue their friend.
Yes, I recall the Azimov story. I recall thinking that it wasn't a bad estimation of what an algorithm might do in such a set of circumstances.
 

Booo

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#13
Personally, I don't believe all in free will. I've had experiences to prove otherwise, but I don't feel comfortable writing them to get them shot down and explained by science. It is important to have a healthy understanding of science and not think that everything is magic and fairydust, but I don't think that science is accounted for, for everything.

I do believe that at least some things are destined in life that we cannot control. Such as when we die, who comes in and out of our lives and how long they're there for, when we marry or have children/don't have children etc.

Why is it that people have premonitions that come to pass, such as a dream of a family member or friend passing and it happens, or stories online from real people on forums like this where they have been driving along the road and heard a voice say 'slow down', to narrowly avoid an accident? That isn't free will. I can completely understand why people would believe in free will, I could decide for breakfast I want a fry up and suddenly change my mind and not feel peckish, etc.

Personally, I believe that our choices are pre-determined in life. People might say then "what is the point?''. The point is, we all have different lives to live and lessons to learn. Even a non-spiritualist would agree we learn all of the time throughout our life. I might die at 35 of cancer, someone else on this board might live to 100 and be very fit and healthy, have a good life. Yes, karma added into the mix. What you send out comes back to you, I have seen karma happen and I don't believe that that's free will and certainly science would most likely argue against karma.

People have written on here that they've been to psychics who have predicted things that came to pass years on and I have been able to 'premonition' things myself. If there is free will, then how could they see these things? If there is a free will, I believe that we can put things off and delay things in life, but we will still come to those end destinations we were supposed to.

Why is it that some people want to go into a career and they try and try everything and it wasn't meant for them? If they had free will, surely they'd be able to succeed by the law of averages, because it is their free will and choice? I do believe things happen on purpose and I don't mean that there's a God who controls our life and decides our future, but I do believe in life lessons and reincarnation where we have had past lives and perhaps had a better life in our last life so this life we are to learn how tough life can be, etc. That is my personal belief and I respect others who are more on the science side of things because if is their belief. But professor Brian Cox is heavily into science as we all know and I aww recently in the news him saying that ghosts are not real. I have had so many experiences with the paranormal that I could fill a book, so I have my proof that science isn't always accurate like people make out it is. Some things cannot be explained that I and others around me have experienced.
 
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